Books and links that should be in every designer's library.

General Topics

Good stuff that applies to a lot of design disciplines

Universal Principles of Design, William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler
85 key principles of design that span a wide variety of human disciplines and from which one can draw analogies to many others.

Designing with the Mind in Mind, Jeff Johnson
A very interesting book focused on the processes of the mind and thinking and those concepts must impact the design of information and communication

The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda
10 Laws and 3 keys of design principles about how to get to the essence of something, expressed and discussed simply

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, Matthew Frederick
While 88 more things than the Meada's 10 laws a 3 keys, Frederick is even more concise in his discussion of 101 key ideas, almost like post it notes that a designer should attach all around the periphery of the design table and follow a process; 1) read before designing, 2) identify relevant 'things" 3) follow carefully when designing

The Evolution of Useful Things, Henry Petroski
Many interesting concepts. For example the design of useful things comes not from need but from want; we need air, we don't need air conditioning.
A gateway to useful user experience discussions, experts and so forth
"Timeless" design principles

Information Design

Usability Engineering, Jakob Nielsen
Dated but still class ic principles in information design

Elements of the User Experience, Jesse James Garrett
Describes a good metaphor for the levels of a design problem in interactive spaces from users needs to information architecture to navigation to screen design to "eye candy"

Community Design

Designing real and virtual spaces social interaction

The Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander
Deep understandings of the way humans live in the natural and man-made world around them expressed as "patterns" that can be applied to other disciplines such as virtual spaces and virtual communities. "It presents a new theory of architecture, building and planning which has, at its core, that age-old process by which the people of a society have always pulled the order of their world from their own being." A must have book for any designer working with communities, online or off.//

A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverman
The companion to The Timeless way of Building, this book is reference of 253 design patterns for building spaces for human activity. Each patten identifies a type of problem, discusses it and presents solutions. An incredibley useful "look-up" reference for designers of both real and virtual spaces.

wikipatterns, Stuart Mader
How to go about establishin and growing a useful wiki, has relevance to other types of online communities also. See the companion site below for a useful road map.
A web site of really useful patterns and principles for the development and growth of wikis centered on the activity of people who use them, also applicable to other kinds of social networking site

Game Design

Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, Katie Salen, Eric Zimmerman
Every game designer should have as many books on game design as they have shelf space on which to put them, but if you had to have one only, this is probably the one to have (in its text, it also mentions many of the others).

The Art of Game Design, A Book of Lenses, Jesse Schell
The Art of Game Design, A Deck of Lenses, Jesse Schell
If you don;t have time to read the book at least read the lenses

Story Design

The Writer's Journey, Christopher Vogler
Vogler's excellent detailed description and analysis of the archetypal mythic structure called "the hero's journey", a ubiquitous story structure found virtually everywhere in the history of storytelling. This is one road map for how to develop a compelling story.

Digital Storytelling, Carolyn Handler Miller

Learner-Centered Design

"Learner-Centered Design: Reflections on the Past and Directions for the Future" Chris Quintana, Namsoo Shin, Cathleen Norris, Elliot Soloway
The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, (2006)

Great article about the difference between designing for users versus designing for learners

Fisch, S. M. (2005). Making educational computer games “educational” (p. 56-61). ACM Press. Proceeding of the 2005 conference on Interaction design and children IDC.
Discusses the importance of integrating content into the structure of the game.

Kinetic Design

Design commentary focused on recent kinetic technologies
Jakob Neilsen has a different take on the iPad, and it's not all raves.


Chinese Calligraphy, An Introduction to Its Aesthetic and Technique, Chiang Yee
An interesting exposition on rhythm, line, structure and space in Chinese calligraphy, a art form whose design principles have evolved over thousands of years. Of particular interest are Chapter 4 on Abstract Beauty and Chapter 7 on Composition. One can easilymake interesting analogies to rhythmic movement in real space (dance the Wii, the new brand of accelerometer driven mobile devices) and rhythmic mental movement through a virtual space.